• Leslie

Boost the Brain with Games


Like much of the northern part of the country, we recently endured a snap of cold weather so bitter your words would freeze before they even left your mouth.

Terrified that too much time in front of a screen will actually, physically rot my kids' brains, I refuse to let them binge watch Netflix on snow days. But when the temps camp out below zero, what do you do to wile away the hours?

Whip out those board games.

Quick confession here. My family actually LOVES playing games. Typically multiple nights during the week, we turn off the TV and sit down to play all manner of games. Because of our obsession, we've receive a ton of creative, clever games. With many of them, I've been really impressed at the kinds of critical thinking they require. And honestly, as my own kids - ages 12 and 10 - grow up, it becomes harder and harder to find things we can do as a family (that don't cost a butt-load of money) that everyone enjoys.

So I want to feature a few of the games we really like. To be clear - I'm not selling them and am not getting any kickbacks or anything. These are just games we've played together and loved. I think they'd make wonderful additions to your family's collection or perfect to keep on hand in the classroom.

So, game on!

Tsuro: Ages 8+ 2-8 players

Visually beautiful, this games challenges players to create maze-like paths to follow while trying to stay on the board as long as possible. Each round is completely new and different; players must tik ahead, plot their routes, and plan for potential problems. Tsuro doesn't take long to play either - maybe 15 minutes at most, and up to 8 players can be on the board, which makes it ideal for a classroom setting.

Machi Koro: Ages 10+ 2-5 players

This game is like a less greedy version of Monopoly. The object is to be the first to unlock all your special properties. To do this, you must earn money, invest it in other things that will make you money, and then pray to the board game gods for lucky numbers. Part chance party strategy, this game helps kids plan ahead, make wise decisions, and think about long-term vs. short-term gains. We LOVE this game - partly for the trashing-talking that happens during it - but also because you can never predict the outcome. It usually takes us about 45 minutes to an hour to play, but it's nothing like the marathon of Monopoly.

Splendor: Ages 10+ 2-4 players

We just got this game for Christmas, but it's become a fast favorite around the house. Imagine you are a merchant during the Renaissance trying to amass wealth through the collection of "gems" (really they're coins with jewels printed on them, but their heft is impressive). Once you get the hang of the game, turns take almost no time at all, which is great for impatient players. I'll admit, it took me a while to figure this game out. At first I hated it because I kept losing (by a lot). However, I've come to love the faster pace, the strategic elements, and anticipation in each game. It takes us about 20-30 minutes to play, and often we'll do more than one round (so that I have a chance to win...just saying).

Spirits of the Wild: Ages 10+ 2 players

Last one...for this post, anyway. This game is unique in that it's specifically designed for two players. Perfect for those kids who love playing games but don't like the intense competition of large groups. In this game, players try to earn the most points by collecting colored stones. But watch out! Clear stones and the wily coyote threaten to throw you off track. Equal parts luck and skill, this games helps kids learn to think on their feet and be flexible. Strategy can go out the window and players are forced to reconsider what will work. Love playing this game with my kids. It's a quick one too - only takes about 15-20 minutes to play.

No lie, these make great alternatives to screen time or video games. But here's the trick: You have to play too. I promise, engaging with these games is fun and challenging. These ain't no Candy Land or Shoot 'N Ladders. These are legit. So go ahead and get your game on!

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